Wednesday, 24 July 2024


CLEARLAKE OAKS – An Esparto man sustained major injuries on Saturday when his motorcycle collided with a pickup driven by a local man.

John Medeiros, 46, was flown to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital via REACH air ambulance following the crash, which occurred at 5:20 p.m. on Highway 20 west of Orchard Shores Drive in Clearlake Oaks, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Medeiros was riding his 1993 Harley Davidson motorcycle westbound on Highway 20 at approximately 55 miles per hour, while 39-year-old David Andrade of Clearlake was driving his 1975 Ford pickup eastbound, also at 55 miles per hour, according to a report prepared by CHP Officer Jake Bushey.

Bushey's report said that, for unknown reasons, Medeiros made an unsafe turn to the left which caused his motorcycle to enter the eastbound lane, directly in the path of Andrade's truck.

Andrade attempted to swerve to the right but couldn't avoid the collision, and Bushey's report said Medeiros' motorcycle hit the left side of Andrade's pickup.

Medeiros' motorcycle went under the left side of the pickup truck and hit the rear axle. He and the motorcycle came to rest in the westbound lane, Bushey's report stated, while Andrade's pickup ended up on the south shoulder of the highway facing westbound.

In addition to Medeiros' injuries, the collision also resulted in Andrade receiving minor injuries, Bushey said. Andrade was treated at the scene by Northshore Fire Protection District paramedics and was not transported to the hospital.

The report noted that both men were using safety equipment.

Drugs and alcohol are not considered as contributing factors to the collision, Bushey reported.

The collision is still under investigation, the report said.

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LAKEPORT – A former county correctional officer pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of possession of illegal fireworks and tracer ammunition on Friday as part of an agreement reached with the Lake County District Attorney's Office.

Russell “Rusty” Wright, 38, of Kelseyville will be on informal, summary probation while he completes 160 hours of community service and will be required to pay a small fine, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff.

Shells, gun parts and magazines that were found in Wright's possession, and which are illegal, also were forfeited and ordered destroyed, he added.

“We didn't think jail time was appropriate,” Hinchcliff said.

Wright's attorney, Stephen Carter, noted, “The end result for Rusty is really excellent.”

Wright was arrested Feb. 2 and originally charged with felony grand theft, embezzlement by a public officer, receiving stolen property and possession of dangerous fireworks, as Lake County News has reported.

Based on those original charges, Wright was facing more than three years in prison, Carter said.

“We try and hold officers to a higher standard than civilians,” said Hinchcliff, but in the courts, the goal is to treat them equally and fairly.

“This would be an appropriate and natural disposition for anybody, no matter who they are,” Hinchcliff said.

He said Wright had no prior record whatsoever. In addition, Wright has already lost his position with the sheriff's office and likely won't be able to get another law enforcement job.

“He's already suffered a substantial penalty,” Hinchcliff said.

A correctional officer with the county since 1995, Wright was terminated for serious misconduct previous to the arrest, according to investigative documents.

Hinchcliff said that a Jan. 16 search of Wright's home turned up a duffel bag filled with belly chains, leg shackles and a new Taser, still in its box, which wasn't assigned to him and which was supposed to be in the jail's armory, where Wright had been a rangemaster.

Carter maintained that Wright had the items – including the Taser – as part of his job. “There was no criminal intent involved in his possession of that,” Carter said.

The items and the duffel bag were found while investigators served a search warrant on Wright's home in an attempt to locate a trigger mechanism – or sear – that they believed was taken from the armory, Hinchcliff said.

On Jan. 11 Senior Rangemaster Sgt. Don McPherson audited the 10 M16-A1 rifles belonging to the sheriff's office and discovered that the trigger of one of them had been replaced with one from an AR-15, a weapon similar to an M16-A1, according to search warrant documents.

The effect was that the M16-A1, which was supposed to be automatic, became semiautomatic due to the trigger change. Hinchcliff said a major investigation led sheriff's officials to allege that Wright took the trigger sear.

Hinchcliff said the investigation also looked into whether Wright had an automatic firearm and a .50-caliber BMG rifle in his possession. The search warrant affidavit indicated that Wright told investigators that he transported the two weapons in question to a friend in Utah.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives previously confirmed to Lake County News that it was involved in the investigation and working with the sheriff's office.

However, the weapons weren't found. Neither was the trigger sear, said Hinchcliff. “There was never sufficient evidence to charge him with it.”

As to why investigators pursued the weapons investigation against Wright so aggressively, Carter said he could only speculate.

However, Carter added, “It has always been Rusty's position, and my position after I saw the evidence, that he had committed no theft crime or embezzlement crime whatsoever.”

Carter said it's never been proven that Wright had any of the alleged firearms or parts. Many people, Carter pointed out, had access to the armory in addition to Wright.

The tracer ammunition was purchased by Wright in another state where it was legal, but was brought back to California where it is not legal, according to Carter.

Carter said that Wright had attempted to return the Taser, shackles and other equipment to Chad Holland, another correctional officer, but Holland “inexplicably” returned the items to Wright rather than taking them back to the sheriff's office.

Hinchcliff said after Wright was terminated sheriff's officials had to go back several times to get various items, including the key to the armory.

Carter said that Wright had simply overlooked the items, and after sheriff's officials came out inquiring about items, Wright began thinking about the gear he had as part of his job. “That's when he called Holland,” Carter said, in an effort to return the items.

Hinchcliff said Holland and Wright were friends, and Wright gave Holland the bag. Holland started to drive off with the items, had concerns about being involved, and then returned the bag to Wright.

Carter said the warrant came out a day or so after Wright attempted to give the items to Holland.

Search warrant documents stated that Holland, who along with Wright had been one of six sheriff's rangemasters, told officials in January that he had several unregistered assault weapons which he then turned over to them.

Sheriff Rod Mitchell told Lake County News in an interview earlier this year that Holland's case was investigated and he faced no criminal charges.

Holland continued his employment with the jail after that time. However, on Friday, Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office said Holland's employment with the agency ended mid-June. The specifics of why his employment ended are confidential.

Holland had been a correctional officer with the Lake County Jail for five years, Bauman said.

Like Wright, Holland served in the National Guard. Both did a tour in Iraq as part of the 649th Engineering Unit from September 2007 to May 2008, as Lake County News has reported. Wright served as a combat sergeant.

Another aspect to the case is a leak of the investigative report onto the Internet, which the sheriff's office is working with the California Department of Justice to investigate, as Lake County News has reported.

There have been concerns that whoever leaked the report violated Wright's civil rights, including right to due process.

Mitchell said Friday that the investigation is continuing, and remains in the hands of the Department of Justice.

As to whether or not Wright may sue over that breach, Carter said, “He's not indicated that to me.”

Carter said a felony prosecution threatened Wright's constitutional rights, including his Second Amendment right to possess firearms, which are important to him from the standpoint of hunting and personal defense, as well as his military career.

“Anything that involved a felony would have ended his military career,” Carter said. “I was really glad to save that for him.”

Carter said Wright expects to redeploy to Iraq early next year.

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NORTHERN CALIFORNIA – As tens of thousands of Californians prepare to mark Independence Day, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) reminds everyone to keep safety a top priority.

This year the holiday falls on a Sunday, so for many people it will be a three-day weekend full of

celebration and good times.

Fourth of July weekend is a Maximum Enforcement Period (MEP) for the CHP. All available officers will be out on the road during the weekend looking for motorists who are a danger to themselves or others on our state’s highways.

The MEP begins at 6:01 p.m. on Friday, July 2, and continues through midnight on Monday, July 5.

Last year 24 persons were killed statewide during the July 4 weekend, and 80 percent of the vehicle occupants killed in CHP jurisdiction were not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash.

In addition, CHP officers made 1,239 arrests for driving under the influence during that same time period.

“The CHP wants your holiday memories to be happy ones,” said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow. “Please be sure to take a few simple precautions to ensure that your friends and family have a safe Fourth of July.”

The CHP offers the following tips for staying safe this holiday weekend:

  • Don’t drink and drive. If your Independence Day celebration includes drinking alcohol, arrange for a friend or family member who will not be drinking to be the “designated driver.”

  • Always wear your seat belt. Make sure all passengers, adults and children, are also buckled up, even on short trips.

  • Watch your speed. Stay at or below the limit, depending upon road conditions.

  • Plan ahead if you will drive long distances. Add extra time to your trip so you won’t feel rushed and take a break every hour or so to get refreshed.

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Just in time for the July 4 holiday, the Library of Congress has reported that a recent study has given new insight into the drafting of the Declaration of Independence.

Recent hyperspectral imaging of Thomas Jefferson’s rough draft of the Declaration of Independence has clearly confirmed past speculation that Jefferson made an interesting word correction during his writing of the document, according to scientists in the Library of Congress’ Preservation Research and Testing Division (PRTD).

Jefferson originally had written the phrase “our fellow subjects.” But he apparently changed his mind. Heavily scrawled over the word “subjects” was an alternative, the word “citizens.”

The correction seems to illuminate an important moment for Jefferson and for a nation on the eve of breaking from monarchical rule: a moment when he reconsidered his choice of words and articulated the recognition that the people of the fledgling United States of America were no longer subjects of any nation, but citizens of an emerging democracy.

The correction occurs in the portion of the declaration that deals with U.S. grievances against King George III, in particular, his incitement of “treasonable insurrections.”

While the specific sentence doesn’t make it into the final draft, a similar phrase was retained, and the word “citizens” is used elsewhere in the final document. The sentence didn’t carry over, but the idea did.

Fenella France, a scientist in PRTD, conducted the hyperspectral imaging in the fall of 2009 and discovered a blurred word under “citizens.”

“It had been a spine-tingling moment when I was processing data late at night and realized there was a word underneath citizens,” France said. “Then I began the tough process of extracting the differences between spectrally similar materials to elucidate the lost text.”

Hyperspectral imaging is the process of taking digital photos of an object using distinct portions of the visible and non-visible light spectrum, revealing what previously could not be seen by the human eye.

The hyperspectral imaging system is located in the Library’s Optical Properties Laboratory, on the sub-basement level of the James Madison Building.

Fascinating details of our historical heritage have been coming to light with the use of hyperspectral imaging.

For instance, recent imaging of the heavily varnished and visually obscured 1791 Pierre L’Enfant Plan of Washington, D.C., has clearly revealed invisible streets and special locations, including the “President’s House” and “Congress’ House.”

The Thomas Jefferson word correction has been suspected for some time by scholars, the Library of Congress reported.

In “The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Volume 1: 1760-1776” (Princeton University Press, 1950), Julian P. Boyd wrote, “TJ originally wrote ‘fellow-subjects,’ copying the term from the corresponding passage in the first page of the First Draft of the Virginia Constitution; then, while the ink was still wet on the ‘Rough draught’ he expunged or erased ‘subjects’ and wrote ‘citizens’ over it.”

Incidentally, Jefferson died at age 83 on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.

Dying on that same day at age 90 was John Adams, also a former president and one of the five men – along with Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Robert R. Livingston and Roger Sherman – who sat on the declaration's drafting committee, which ultimately instructed Jefferson to draft the document.

Adams and Jefferson were friends, later becoming political rivals. However, late in life they renewed their friendship and entered into a long-running correspondence. Their letters still exist today.

Jefferson died hours ahead of Adams, who – not knowing of his friend's death – is reported to have said, “Jefferson still survives,” according to historical sources.

The rough draft of the Declaration of Independence can be explored in stunning detail in the online version of the exhibition "Creating the United States" at (and on-site, appropriately, at the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building).

The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, holds nearly 145 million items in various languages, disciplines and formats.

The Library serves the U.S. Congress and the nation both on-site in its reading rooms on Capitol Hill and through its award-winning Web site at

Many of the Library’s rich resources and treasures may also be accessed via interactive exhibitions on a personalized website at

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UPPER LAKE – Visitors traveling to Lake Pillsbury on Highway 20 and East Side Potter Valley Road should watch for increased traffic related to the Westshore timber sale, Mendocino National Forest officials said Friday.

Visitors should expect to encounter more traffic, including log trucks, on the popular access route to the lake through the rest of this summer, according to the report.

Drivers in the area are asked to be observant and drive safely in the area to prevent accidents. This includes observing posted speed limits, staying in the appropriate lane for direction of travel – especially on curves, and watching for trucks and other vehicles entering roadways.

The Westshore timber sale is a hazardous fuels reduction project planned and implemented through the Northwest Forest Plan. It is intended to restore forest health in the area and help protect local communities from the threat of wildfire.

For more information, please contact the Mendocino National Forest Upper Lake Ranger District at 707-275-0676 or visit

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LAKEPORT – As business was ending on Thursday, the Lake County Registrar of Voters Office completed its final tally of votes for the June 8 primary election, including thousands of previously uncounted absentee ballots.

The result: No change in placement for candidates in local races.

In recent weeks, Registrar of Voters Diane Fridley and her staff have been processing more than 3,700 absentee, provisional and electronic ballot results, as well as conducting a manual tally of some precincts as part of the normal business of certifying the election.

Fridley had originally suspected there would be no major changes in how the candidates placed, and she was correct.

In the close district attorney's race, Don Anderson took 4,088 votes, or 37.8 percent, in the preliminary tally, followed by Doug Rhoades with 3,463 votes and 32 percent and incumbent Jon Hopkins with 3,258 votes or 30.1 percent.

The final results showed Anderson still in the lead with 5,034 votes or 37.3 percent, with the number of votes separating him and Rhoades narrowing to just over 400.

Rhoades received 4,629 votes, or 32.4 percent.

Hopkins finished with 30.3 percent of the vote, or 4,329 votes cast for him, meaning the November runoff will be between Anderson and Rhoades.

“I have served the people of Lake County for 13 years and am very proud of what we have accomplished in the District Attorney's Office in that time,” Hopkins said Thursday evening.

“As district attorney, I have worked hard with the staff to assure a high level of quality of service to the community,” he added. “I am hopeful that they will be able to continue on that same course, serving Lake County.”

Rhoades said he was very happy with the results.

“I'm very grateful to the voters of Lake County for keeping me in their thoughts and their votes for the District Attorney's Office,” said Rhoades. “I look forward to a runoff election with Don. The voters will decide who is the better candidate.”

In the sheriff's race, preliminary race results placed challenger Francisco Rivero in first place with 4,297 votes, or 38.5 percent of the vote, followed by incumbent Rod Mitchell with 3,852 votes and 34.5 percent, and Jack Baxter with 3,008 votes, or 27 percent.

In the final tally, Rivero widened his margin over Mitchell slightly, with a total of 5,682 votes or 38.4 percent. Mitchell had 5,078 votes or 34.3 percent, followed by the race's other challenger, Jack Baxter, with 4,024 votes, or 27.2 percent.

In the District 3 supervisorial race, incumbent Denise Rushing was returned to office with a final tally of 1,625 votes or 54.6 percent, followed by challengers Gary Lewis with 691 votes or 23.2 percent, and Robert Hesterberg, who brought in 22.1 percent of the vote with 658 ballots cast for him.

District 2 Supervisor Jeff Smith easily won reelection in his race with 1,245 votes or 62.4 percent over challenger and Clearlake Vice Mayor Joyce Overton, who received 750 votes or 37.6 percent.

In the final tally for the superintendent of schools race, Wally Holbrook had 8,631 votes, or 59.6 percent, with Judy Luchsinger bringing in 5,840 votes or 40.4 percent.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

Doug Mooney of Full Moon Farms in this lettuce field with his faithful dog. Photo by Esther Oertel.





My high school science teacher, an avid fisherman, once told me that he liked my freckles because they reminded him of a “nice, speckled trout.” I’m not sure I liked being compared to a fish; however, I do enjoy sharing my freckled identity with a type of lettuce of which I recently became aware.

The lettuce in question is “freckled lettuce,” a variety with a loosely formed head that has red blotches on its green leaves. It caught my eye while perusing the stalls at a recent farmers’ market, and, as you can imagine, I was happily intrigued by its moniker. It’s grown by Full Moon Farm in Kelseyville, and when I visited the farm recently, I enjoyed seeing rows of these lettuces growing with Mt. Konocti as an impressive backdrop.

There are hundreds of varieties of lettuce. In 1885, there were 87 varieties identified in the U.S., and while that’s an admirable amount, we’ve come a long way since then.

As many types as there are, they fall into far fewer large categories, or cultivar groups.

Loose leaf (or simply leaf) lettuce doesn’t form heads, but its leaves are joined at the stem. Examples of this variety include oak lettuce and red or green leaf lettuces.

Romaine (or cos) lettuce has a long head with sturdy leaves which have a rib down the center. The outer leaves tend to be dark. This type has gained popularity because it’s the base ingredient for Caesar salad. Its crispy texture may appeal to those who like iceberg lettuce.




Full Moon Farm's freckled lettuce. Photo by Esther Oertel.



Lettuce in the Butterhead category has loosely formed heads, a buttery texture and mild taste. Boston lettuce, which is shaped like a blooming rose, and Bibb lettuce, which is cup shaped, are both examples of this type.

Chinese lettuces have long, sword-shaped, non-head-forming leaves with a bitter flavor. Unlike the west where lettuce is generally eaten raw, the Chinese use lettuce in stir-fried dishes and stews. (China is the world’s largest lettuce producer by far. The U.S. is a distant second, growing only half of China’s crop.)

Summer Crisp, or Batavian, forms moderately dense heads with a crunchy texture. This type is intermediate between iceberg and loose leaf types.

Finally, the Crisphead variety includes Iceberg lettuce. It is the least nutritious of the salad greens, has pale leaves, a cabbage-like head, crispy texture and mild flavor.

Lettuce is thought to have originated as a weed in the Mediterranean region and has been used in cuisine for about 4,500 years. Ancient Greek scholars identified different types of lettuces, and lettuce appears in tomb paintings in Egypt.

Christopher Columbus introduced lettuce to the new world. By the time Thomas Jefferson was president, he was growing 19 types on his farm at Monticello.

It’s interesting to note that both the Latin and English words for lettuce derive from “lac,” the Latin word for milk, possibly because of the milky juice of some varieties. In fact, in the earliest Egyptian tomb paintings, the ruler Senusret offers lettuce to the god Min, to whom milk was sacred.




Teale Love in front of his shaded lettuce tent. Photo by Esther Oertel.



Ancient Egyptians considered lettuce an aphrodisiac, and early Greek physicians thought lettuce contained a sleep-inducing agent. The Romans held to this belief, as well, and served lettuce at the end of the meal for this reason. (The custom of serving salad at the end of a meal continues in some European countries.)

The nutritional value of lettuce varies based on the variety. In general, lettuces with darker leaves are more nutrient dense than those with lighter leaves. For example, Romaine lettuce has eight times the beta-carotene, four times the calcium and two times the potassium as Iceberg lettuce.

The darker lettuces are good sources of vitamins A, K and C, folate, manganese and chromium. All lettuces are good sources of dietary fiber, even the nutrient barren Iceberg variety. They’re also low in calories and high in water content.

Lettuce aids digestion and promote liver health. Some research shows it helps reduce the risk of cancer and ease nervous insomnia (which gives credence to the theories of the ancient Greeks and Romans).

I had an opportunity recently to visit Love Farms at the base of Cobb Mountain in Lower Lake, where Teale Love has devised a way to grow lettuces in the shade in the height of Lake County’s summer heat.

Lettuce is typically a cool weather crop; its growth is stunted in the heat and the leaves grow bitter. Love’s shaded growing tent changes all this.

The tent material is netlike, with holes for the sun to penetrate. Even so, the temperature drops significantly when one steps into it. There are spray nozzles set up along its sides that emit a fine mist to keep the developing lettuces cool, even on the hottest of days.

Love spent last year testing his method using a dozen or more lettuce varieties. He kept careful track of which ones showed more tolerance to heat, eliminating the ones that didn’t do well. The result is that we will have a crop of heat resistant lettuces available to us at Lake County farmers’ markets through the summer. Hurrah!

The recipe I offer today is an unusual Thai appetizer served in lettuce leaves. It bursts with a variety of flavors; in fact, everything we can identify on our palates – sweet, sour, bitter, salty, umami (savory) and piquant – is represented in the lettuce wrap.

Lettuce leaves also make interesting wraps when filled with flavorful ingredients from other world cuisines, such as China or Mexico. Be creative – the possibilities are endless!

This recipe is from Mei Ibach, a Thai cuisine culinary instructor at SRJC, and some of the ingredients are found in Asian markets. (If you’d like a list of markets, please email me.)

For a vegetarian version, simply eliminate the dried shrimp and shrimp paste.

Miang Kam

Lettuce leaves, washed and patted dry, 20 or more

¼ cup fresh roasted peanuts

¼ cup fresh toasted coconut flakes

¼ cup fresh ginger, cut into a fine dice

¼ cup fresh lime, cut into the tiniest of wedges, leaving skin on

¼ cup fresh jalapeño chiles, cut into a fine dice (seed chilies if less heat is desired)

¼ cup dried shrimp (found in Asian markets)

To serve, lay all ingredients out artistically on a large platter. (Lettuce should be presented separately.)

To eat, put a pinch of each ingredient into a lettuce leaf, top with palm ginger sauce (recipe follows), wrap, and eat in one bite.

Palm ginger sauce

½ cup palm sugar (found in Asian markets)

½ cup water

3 to 4 slices fresh ginger

½ teaspoon shrimp paste (optional)

1 tablespoon tamarind juice (found in Asian markets)

¼ cup toasted coconut flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

Bring the water to boil in a small pot, then add the palm sugar and stir until dissolved. Add the ginger, tamarind juice, and shrimp paste and stir well. Add salt & pepper to taste. Simmer and reduce until mixture has thickened a bit. Add the coconut flakes just before serving.


Esther Oertel, the "Veggie Girl," is a personal chef and culinary coach and is passionate about local produce. Oertel owns The SageCoach Personal Chef Service and teaches culinary classes at Chic Le Chef in Hidden Valley Lake. She welcomes your questions and comments; e-mail her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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One of the young lettuces inside the lettuce tent at Love Farms. Photo by Esther Oertel.

Mine effluent from the Helen mercury mine's main adit portal located to the left of photo. The brown sediment extends about 100 feet from the portal where it enters an erosional gully on route to Dry Creek. The content of the white precipitate has not yet been determined. During the late summer season, a whitish mineral precipitate forms on the surface of the mine tailings and then is subsequently washed away by winter storm events into Dry Creek, a tributary of Upper Putah Creek. Photo courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management.



MIDDLETOWN – The Bureau of Land Management is proposing a $1.7 million alternative to clean up an abandoned mercury mine, officials revealed at a community meeting Tuesday.

The BLM hosted a nearly 80-minute-long meeting at the Jesus Christ Fellowship on Pine Street to discuss plans for the Helen mercury mine cleanup.

The original mine site, located four and a half miles west of Middletown off Dry Creek Road, includes 35 acres that is a mix of private property and land managed by BLM, officials reported Tuesday.

Of special concern are three tributaries to Dry Creek that run through the site, which were discussed at the meeting. Dry Creek flows into Putah Creek and then into Lake Berryessa in Napa County.

Gary Sharpe, an associate field manager for the Ukiah BLM office who hosted the meeting, told Lake County News in a followup interview on Wednesday that the Helen mine is one of many in the region that are being studied for cleanup. On Monday, BLM held a meeting in Healdsburg to discuss two other mercury mines set for cleanup – the Contact and Sonoma mines.

“There are a lot of mercury mines in this state,” he said.

Two other mines are located in the same drainage as the Helen and directly upstream – the Chicago and Research – with Sharpe explaining that initial investigations are nearly completed on both. He said he hopes to have public meetings on those mines next year.

The Helen mine's draft final engineering evaluation and cost analysis prepared by Portland, Ore.-based Ecology and Environment Inc., the BLM's consultant on the mine cleanup, explained that the Helen, Research and Chicago mercury deposits are among the youngest in the Coast Range's mineral belt.

North of the Helen there are four or five more mercury mines, located on private land, Sharpe said. BLM also is working in Colusa County on three other mines – the Rathburn, Petray and Clyde – located in the Walker Ridge area.

Mercury was used for gold mining during the 19th century, and during World Wars I and II mercury production again rose as the highly explosive mercury fulminate was used for munitions, Sharpe said.

That boom in mercury production continued up through the 1950s as the arms race gained steam, he added.

While the Helen mine itself hasn't been a high priority, Sharpe said the concerns about the mercury from the mine has been an issue for the State Water Resources Control Board, which is trying to keep mercury out of the Bay Delta.

He said the mine was one of three that were eligible for stimulus funds due to being considered “shovel ready.”

Lenna Cope, a professional engineer with Ecology and Environment Inc., presented the mine's draft final engineering evaluation and cost analysis to the small crowd of about a dozen area residents on Tuesday.

Cope said the analysis included an expanded human health and ecological risk assessment for the mine.

The report explained that the mine was patented in 1874 by John Pershbaker, and then passed through a series of owners until it was nearly shut down in 1921. It continued through additional owners until it was sold in 1976 to Helen Mine, a joint venture between W.C. McCulloch and Richard R. Clements and Sons, according to the evaluation document.

Cope said the first report of mercury production, totaling 128 flasks – each weighing 76 pounds – was in 1873, followed by another 100 flasks by 1903.

In 1913, 5,000 flasks were reported, with the mine's main years of production taking place from 1903 to 1919. Cope said from 1919 to 1975 it produced another 7,000 flasks.

The US Geological Survey had conducted environmental sampling at the mine site in 2003, and Cope's firm took samples earlier this year of soil, sediment and biological resources for the study.

Cope said the site, as it is today, includes five main site features – a northern tailings pile, middle tailings pile, southern disturbed area, and storage tank and retort areas. Tailings are the materials left behind when mercury is extracted.

In places like the northern and middle tailings areas, the contaminated material is believed to be 33 feet deep, she said. However, the storage tank and retort areas had the highest mercury concentration, according to test results.

Water that drains from the mine's nearby adits – or entrances – is neutral, so it isn't contributing an acid load. However, Cope noted that it contains heavy metals.

Altogether, the mine has 6,800 cubic yards of contaminated materials – which Cope defined as materials that have mercury levels above the criteria established in the site's risk assessment. Cope said that amount of material isn't huge when compared to other mine sites.

Testing of the site's main features showed that the highest mercury concentrations were found in the northern tailings pile, with 1,100 milligrams per kilogram, compared to 7,900 millimeters per kilogram for the storage tank area, Cope reported. Those numbers are far higher than a sampling taken near the creek of 83 milligrams per kilogram.

Tests of the three Dry Creek tributaries showed that there was a source of mercury bioaccumulation upstream of the mine, which Cope wasn't any greater than the levels downstream.

For the human risk assessment, she said mercury was the principal contaminant of concern. No cyanide was found, but there were smaller amounts of arsenic detected.

Humans at the greatest risk for encountering mercury would be child campers, who Cope said would risk exposure of 355 milligrams per kilogram.

The greatest hazard for contamination was to terrestrial plans, she said.

The studies laid the groundwork for the response plan, which Cope said seeks to reduce human and ecological exposure.

They considered five alternatives, said Cope. The first was no action, which must be included and is used as a baseline for comparison to other options.

The second option, limited action, proposes construction of a diversion berm and channel system above the mine site to keep water from draining through it and into the creeks, Cope said.

That option, said Cope, also would include building rock pools in the stream, minor recontouring and stabilization of the slopes and institutional controls to prevent human contact, at an estimated total cost of $700,000.

The third alternative, and the one preferred by BLM, costs about $1.7 million and would consolidate all 6,800 cubic yards of contaminated materials from the tailings areas, retort, storage and southern disturbed area into one location, according to Cope.

Cope said permanent surface water diversion structures would be constructed, and there would be capping of the materials with 24 inches of clean materials and revegetation, with the slopes shaped to prevent sediment from moving.

The fourth alternative, which Cope said would cost about $2.2 million, is similar to alternative three, but would include a clay liner below the contaminated materials as well as above it, with a soil cap.

The fifth alternative was off-site disposal. Cope said that plan, estimated at $2.7 million, would require major road improvements in order for trucks to get in and out of the area, as well as excavation and materials transport to appropriate landfills, where they would have to pay tipping fees. The area then would be recontoured, revegetated and reclaimed.

All cost estimates, Cope noted, included ongoing monitoring.

Cope said the recommended alternative is No. 3, which does the best job of getting contamination away from surface water.

Sharpe said BLM will need to find more money to do the project, which will go out for bid through the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

An archaeologist working for BLM had conducted a survey of the area, which local archaeologist Dr. John Parker – representing the Lake County Heritage Commission – asked about at the meeting.

Parker noted that miners working at mines from the 1870s through the 1920s were primarily Chinese. He said archaeologists don't know much about the Chinese in Lake County, and the commission was concerned about the possibility of artifacts.

Sharpe said Wednesday that if he's able to get some additional stimulus funding he expects design work on the mine cleanup could begin this fall, with remediation beginning in the summer of 2011.

To see the Helen mine's draft final engineering evaluation and cost analysis prepared by Ecology and Environment Inc., visit; there report begins halfway down the page.

Comments can be provided at the public meeting, through the BLM’s Web site at, by email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., by fax to 707-468-4027, or by mail to BLM Ukiah Field Office, 2550 N. State St., Ukiah, Calif., 95482.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced the establishment of a new Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) that will offer coverage to uninsured Americans who have been unable to obtain health coverage because of a pre-existing health condition.

The Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, which will be administered either by a state or by the Department of Health and Human Services, will provide a new health coverage option for Americans who have been uninsured for at least six months, have been unable to get health coverage because of a health condition, and are a U.S. citizen or are residing in the United States legally.

The state of California is one of 29 states plus the District of Columbia that have chosen to operate their own plans. The remaining 21 states have elected to have HHS administer the plans.

California will use $761 million in federal funding made available under the Affordable Care Act and building on its experience running its existing state-based “high risk” program called the California Major Risk Medical Insurance Program which provided coverage to 7,036 individuals in 2009.

Created under the Affordable Care Act, the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan is a transitional program until 2014, when insurers will be banned from discriminating against adults with pre-existing conditions, and individuals and small businesses will have access to more affordable private insurance choices through new competitive Exchanges.

In 2014, Members of Congress will also purchase their insurance through Exchanges.

“For too long, California residents with pre-existing conditions have been locked out of our health insurance market,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

Sebelius said the new insurance plan offers new option, the same insurance coverage as a healthy individual if they’ve been uninsured for at least six months because of a medical condition.

“This program will provide people the help they need as the nation transitions to a more competitive and fair market place in 2014,” she said.

The Affordable Care Act provides $5 billion in federal funding to support Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plans in every state.

Some states have requested that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services run their Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan. Other states, like California, have requested that they run the program themselves. For more information about how the plan is being administered in California, please visit HHS’s new consumer Web site,

“Health coverage for California residents with pre-existing conditions has historically been unobtainable or failed to cover the very conditions for which they need medical care,” said Jay Angoff, director of the Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (OCIIO) which is overseeing the program. “The Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan is designed to address these challenges by offering comprehensive coverage at a reasonable cost. We modeled the program on the highly successful Children’s Health Insurance Program, also known as CHIP, so states would have maximum flexibility to meet the needs of their citizens.”

In order to give states the flexibility to best meet their needs, HHS provided states with the option of running the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan themselves or having HHS run the plan.

Beginning immediately, the national Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan will be open to applicants in the 21 states where HHS is operating the program.

In August, eligible Californians will be able to apply for coverage under the state’s new PCIP program. All states which are operating their own Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plans will begin enrollment by the end of the summer, with many beginning enrollment today.

“The Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan is an important next step in the overall implementation of the Affordable Care Act,” said Richard Popper, director of Insurance Programs at OCIIO. “We have been working closely with the states and other stakeholders to make sure this program reaches uninsured Americans struggling to find coverage due to a pre-existing condition.”

The Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan will cover a broad range of health benefits, including primary and specialty care, hospital care, and prescription drugs.

The plan does not base eligibility on income and does not charge a higher premium because of a medical condition. Participants will pay a premium that is not more than the standard individual health insurance premium in their state for insurance that covers major medical and prescription drug expenses with some cost-sharing.

Like the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the Pre-Existing Condition Plan provides states flexibility in how they run their program as long as basic requirements are met. Federal law establishes general eligibility, but state programs can vary on cost, benefits and determination of pre-existing condition.

Funding for states is based on the same allocation formula as CHIP, and it will be reallocated if unspent by the states. Unlike CHIP, there is no state matching requirement and the federal government will cover the entire cost of the Pre-Existing Condition Plan.

While it took more than six months for a small number of states to establish their CHIP programs, HHS officials anticipate that every state will begin enrolling individuals in the Pre-Existing Condition Plan by the end of August.

Information on how to apply for the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan is available at

An informational pamphlet on the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan can be found at:

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NORTHERN CALIFORNIA – With warm weather and family events, the July 4 holiday can be a fun time to create great memories. It also can be a tragic time for fires and critical burn injuries.

As the weekend fun gets set to start, Carl Fire reminds all Californians that before your family celebrates, make sure everyone knows about fireworks safety.

“Fireworks not only create significant dangers to citizens when used improperly or illegally, but also increase the demands on fire departments and firefighters,” said Cal Fire Director Del Walters.

“We recommend that you and your family make memories by attending a local professional fireworks display,” said Walters. “If you live in a jurisdiction that allows fireworks, only use legal fireworks displaying the 'Safe and Sane' State Fire Marshal seal and follow common sense practices to ensure your July 4 holiday remains festive and safe.”

Consumers who choose to purchase legal fireworks need to obey local laws. State fire officials urge you to check first with your local fire department or jurisdiction to find out if fireworks are permitted in your area. If you live in a community that allows the use of State Fire Marshal approved safe and sane fireworks, make sure you only use those fireworks where you purchased them.

In Lake County, safe and sane fireworks only are legal in the city of Lakeport.

It is illegal to transport, store, use, sell or possess fireworks where they are not allowed or are illegal.

Cal Fire Law Enforcement officers in cooperation with local law enforcement agencies will have zero-tolerance for individuals that transport, possess, store, sell, or use fireworks in the wildlands or communities where they are prohibited and illegal.

The celebration of July 4 should not be an excuse to put Californians at risk of fire or injury.

If you live in a community that allows state fire marshal-approved safe and sane fireworks, Cal Fire encourages you to follow these fireworks safety tips:


  • Use fireworks outdoors only.

  • Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them.

  • Only light fireworks on a smooth, flat surface away from the house, dry leaves, and flammable materials.

  • Always have water handy; either by hose or bucket.

  • Only use fireworks as intended. Don’t try to alter or combine them.

  • Never relight a “dud” firework. Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water.

  • Adults should always supervise fireworks activities. Never allow children to play with or ignite fireworks.

  • Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.

  • Think about your pet. Animals have sensitive ears and can be extremely frightened or stressed on July 4. Keep pets indoors to reduce the risk that they will run loose or get injured.

Remember that fireworks are not toys and they should always be used in a safe and legal manner. Cal Fire wants everyone to have a safe and memorable July 4 holiday.

For more information about safe fireworks use, visit the Cal Fire Web site at

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The new clock in Upper Lake, Calif., which was installed on Tuesday, June 29, 2010. A clock similar to this one is expected to be installed soon in Clearlake Oaks, Calif., which like Upper Lake is located along Highway 20. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

NORTHSHORE – The towns of Upper Lake and Clearlake Oaks now have special timepieces to call their own.

On Tuesday, the new Upper Lake town clock was installed at the corner of First and Main streets, according to county Deputy Redevelopment Director Eric Seely.

Lake County Parks Department staff are preparing to construct a base and run electricity to the western side of Nylander Park on Highway 20, where the Clearlake Oaks clock will be installed, Seely said.

In that location it's expected to be visible to people traveling along Highway 20, county officials reported.

The double-sided clocks, which stand more than 15 feet high, each cost $17,973 – including tax, Seely noted – and were both manufactured by Electric Time Co. of Medfield, Mass.

Seely said the company won the competitive bid for the clocks thanks to giving the county a discount for ordering two clocks at the same time.

The Upper Lake Womens Protection League raised and contributed $5,393 for its clock, and the Clearlake Oaks-Glenhaven Business Association gave the county $14,350, Seely reported.

On June 24, Clearlake Oaks-Glenhaven Business Association President Margaret Medeiros presented the check for the group's contribution to County Administrative Officer and Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Kelly Cox, the county reported. The presentation took place during the association's monthly dinner meeting at the Live Oak Senior Center in Clearlake Oaks.

Medeiros, now in her fifth term as the group's president, said it took them about six months to raise the funds, amidst the many other projects the club has a hand in doing.

She said there was a great deal of enthusiasm around the clock project, with numerous community members and business owners offering donations.

The business association voted last year to take on the clock fundraising project in partnership with the Lake County Redevelopment Agency and Public Services Department, the county reported.

Medeiros said Gary Nylander, who owns the Red & White Market along with wife Geri, helped get the ball rolling at a meeting during which the clock project was discussed, pledging $1,000, which Shore Line Realty owns Al and Janice Maschek then matched, as did Cox himself.

The association put up $5,000, she said.

Also donating to the effort were Medeiros and her husband Phil, Dennis and Helen Locke, Jim Jonas, Roger and Camille Gouldberg, Kazmer Ujvarosy, Debi Malley, Harry and Janis Schlickenmayer, Lorraine Brisco, Sarah Merlin, Don Anderson, Alvaro Valencia, Chris Skarada, Jim Atkinson, Mary Amodio, Ron and Evelyn Dothag, Dan and Patty Smith, and Howard Wentworth, the county reported. Eastlake Elementary School Students also donated to the project, along with the Lake County Redevelopment Agency.

Medeiros said the clock will give “more class to the area.”

She said the community is trying to create an actual downtown for Clearlake Oaks.

“We're so sprawled out being on Highway 20, we don't have an actual center,” she said.

Businesses like Shannon Ridge are stepping up and creating attractive facilities around the park, and a visitor center will soon open next to Nylander Park and be run by the Lake County Chamber, Medeiros said.

Medeiros said every town on the lake has tried to have a theme. “Ours has kind of been bouncing between a Tuscan village and a fishing village,” she said.

She added, “Nothing has really been decided.”

The Clearlake Oaks-Glenhaven Business Association has worked with the county and redevelopment agency on a number of other projects, including The Plaza and Nylander Park projects.

The group also is responsible for raising about $10,000 annually, through its Catfish Derby in May, for the Maxine Sherman Memorial Fireworks display on July 4. Medeiros said they took over that effort in 1998.

This year for the first time the group gave out scholarships – $1,000 to one young woman and $500 each to two young men. Medeiros said they also support Sober Grad and the Live Oak Senior Center, which recently received a $2,500 donation.

On top of that, Medeiros said they're supporting the AIDSWalk this year and they donated $500 to the floating islands project at Clark's Island, the goal of which is to mitigate algae.

For more information about the Clearlake Oaks-Glenhaven Business Association contact Medeiros at 707-998-9563.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

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